I would like to think since I have read so much, and that I lived with my grandmother and her “retro, but it was the present at the time it first was in style but not so much in my childhood” style, that I can “pinpoint” an era when looking at a picture book. And I was not too far off from the era of The Cat at Night. First written in 1969 the illustrations were screaming “1930s to 1940’s” farm-chic (only the original deal) and then “1960s” with that pillow on the chair to me. Those bold, wonderful, clashing colors and patterns illustrations said, “This is not today, kiddo.” And then we have a simple, straight forward story, “What does the cat do at night.” And while I was, “okay, the cat is going to wander about, great,” it was how that was presented that grabbed me. Plus, the story of Dahlov Ipcar is probably as interesting as the book itself, honestly.
How it is presented: the illustrations are first (after the initial of seeing the farmer and cat getting ready for the night in a more “full color” manner), the cat is covered in silhouette. Black and blue pop off the page. Then the question of what the cat is seeing when it is dark is given, the next page is what the cat sees, as the cat can see in the night as well as we can in the daylight. The contrast of the dark and light is, well night and day! We see a family of skunks out for a stroll, the chickens and dog asleep, the cat sneaking about looking for a rat to catch. You guess, but then you are given the answer.
There is an introduction by Carl Little and more background information. Part of which gives you that in 1945 their career started when they were asked to illustrate The Little Fisherman by Margaret Wise Brown and including a (to me) amusing story of her pitching her stories and people saying they didn’t do “fantasy” but here is our bestseller which is a fantasy…. This, and more, is why I found the authors life just as interesting, if not more so than the story. There was “meat” to it, while the book story is fairly basic. That’s not to say I did not enjoy The Cat at Night, but it was not “OMG BEST BOOK.”